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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

First Edition Cycling News, August 12, 2008

Edited by Greg Johnson

Spain talks tough after Olympic embarrassment

Spain Minister of sports Jaime Lissavetzky reacts during a press conference
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

Spanish sport officials have called on Maria Isabel Moreno to name and shame her doping products supplier after the rider became the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games' first doping positive yesterday. Spanish sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky pledged to find and prosecute those involved in doping at a press conference in Beijing, China.

"We are going to hunt down these shameless people who harm our athletes," Lissavetzky said. "We are going to clamp down totally and will take the toughest action."

Moreno was tested only hours after arriving in Beijing on July 31, and returned to Spain later that evening after telling her Spanish team she was suffering from an anxiety attack. The cyclist had been slated to contest both the women's road race and tomorrow's time trial.

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"She was quite different after being tested," Spanish Cycling Federation secretary general Eugenio Bermúdez said. "She was crying all the time and she insisted she wanted to go home."

Moreno's non-negative caps off a month of highs and lows for Spanish cycling. While the nation's athletes have claimed both the Olympic Games men's road race victory and won the Tour de France, it has had to contend with the positive tests from Manuel Beltrán and Moisés Dueñas at the Tour and now Moreno's Olympic Games positive.

"I ask you Maribel, looking you in the eyes, 'who gave you the substance and where did you buy it?'," Lissavetzky said.

Spain launched one of the largest doping investigations in international sport, name Operación Puerto, in 2006 but the investigation has been shrouded in controversy. Only three cyclists – Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, and Jörg Jaksche – have been handed suspensions following the investigation, despite a long list of athletes being connected with the investigation.

The investigation had been shelved in 2007 by Judge Antonio Serrano, but pressure from world sporting authorities forced the re-opening of the case in February. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) attempted to have the blood bags connected to the investigation turned over to it in April, however Serrano wouldn't share evidence with the private body, as he's not required to under European Union laws.


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Images by AFP Photo

Track tumble eliminates Dutch coach

Levi Heimans (Netherlands) stays on the ground after crashing into his head
Photo ©: AFP
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The Dutch track cycling team has suffered a setback in its preparations for the Olympic Games track cycling events later this week after an unusual training accident yesterday. Levi Heimans lost control of his bike and took out his national head coach Peter Pieters in the process.

Pieters was seen to by the team's doctor Tjeerd De Vries, but was then taken to hospital. The coach has heavy bruising to his lower back and it's not yet clear whether he will be able to return in time for this weekend's track opener, said De Vries.

"We have to look in the coming days how Pieters will recover and if he will be able to do his coaching job," De Vries told AP.

Despite suffering bruising to his hand, Heimans is believed to be uninjured. Heimans is expected to still take his place in the Dutch team pursuit squad as planned.


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Images by AFP Photo

Ng leads Malaysian track dream

By Jean-François Quénet in Beijing, China

Three time Asian keirin champion Azizul Hasni Awang
Photo ©: Jean-François Quénet
(Click for larger image)

While track events at the Olympic Games don't start until August 15, Malaysia's sprinters made their way to Beijing, China the day prior to the opening ceremony so three time Asian keirin champion Azizul Hasni Awang could carry the nation's flag.

"It means a lot for the development of Malaysian track cycling to have Azizul chosen for that honour," said Josiah Ng, who is the most experienced of the Malaysian sprinters. "He's the product of the talents scout program put in place in the country. Malaysia has never had such a big delegation at the Olympics, with 33 athletes this year."

The country last collected an Olympic medal at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, United States of America. After coming fifth in the keirin in Athens four years ago, Josiah was celebrated as Malaysia's Olympian of the year, but he's aiming at more this time around.

"I'm not a favourite but I've not had this form for a few years," he said. "On Sunday at training I've done my best time, all of us have done our best time. This track with long straights, it suits us a lot."

For a year and half, the Malaysian team sprint has worked together under the advice of Australian coach John Beasley. Azizul and Mohd Rizal Tisin have followed Josiah in Melbourne.

"France is the huge favourite for the team sprint but we can make the top eight," said the Philippino-born rider who grew up in California, USA and returned to Malaysia in 1999 to get his identity card. "They told me to come back the year after and I represented Malaysia for my first international event here in China. It was in Shanghai for the 2000 Asian championships."

Being ethnically a Chinese, although he doesn't really speak the language, Josiah feels at home in Beijing. "And I feel right at home here in the athletes village," he added. "I feel natural and very comfortable. I'm enjoying everything and I stay focused. I can make a good result."

Ng will compete in the team sprint on August 15 and in the keirin on August 16 while Azizul will be Malaysia's lone representative in the individual sprint.

"He's been incredible," Josiah said about the 19 year-old from Terrenganu.

Like many of the large track cycling teams, they prepared for the Olympic Games in Germany. Azizul was fourth in the GP of Cottbüs and sixth in the GP of Erfurt, where Josiah won the keirin event.

"I've beaten a few Germans and Australians recently," Josiah smiled.

The heat and humidity in China which has affected riders from abroad has had little impact on the Malaysians, who are use to conditions in the region. "Even at the opening ceremony, we were the only athletes not sweating because our traditional Malay costumes were made in silk," said Josiah.


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Images by Jean-François Quénet

O'Donnell wants 2012 Olympic Games slot

Australian time trial champion Bridie O'Donnell says she wants to win the next four Australian titles and the World Championships so she can't be overlooked for the 2012 Olympic Games in Manchester, England. The 34 year-old missed selection for the Beijing squad after finishing 16th at the 5th Souvenir Magali Pache Lausanne in May.

"It was a make or break race for me, but it had a steep climb which didn’t suit me," O’Donnell said. "I was really quite devastated and frustrated not to be able to go to Beijing, but my bitterness is slowly dissolving."

O'Donnel believes she can claim the UCI World Champion jersey, and is targeting her home World Championships in Melbourne, Australia in 2010 to do it. "I believe I am capable of winning a world championship and I would like to give myself every chance to attain supreme fitness," she said. "I want to win the next four national time trial titles in Ballarat, the world championship in Melbourne in 2010, and then they’ll have to take me to the London Olympics in 2012."

The Victorian time trial champion is an assistant surgeon, but has put her medical career on the backburner while she strives to fulfil Olympic aspirations. She will contest this weekend's Australian Cycling Grand Prix at Ballarat this weekend, which includes a 27km time trial at Learmonth on Friday, the 33km criterium in Sturt Street, Ballarat, on Saturday, and the 82km road race at Buninyong on Sunday.

"I am really excited about my prospects this weekend," O’Donnell said. "I’m looking for the perfect hit-out before I leave the country for the world time trial championship in Italy on September 24."

O'Donnell is no stranger to the Varese, Italy area where this year's UCI World Road Championships will be held in September. The rider took part in a two month training camp with the Australian National Team in the region earlier this year.

Sastre gets top Vuelta honour

Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank)
Photo ©: AFP
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The Vuelta a España has announced Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) will wear number one at his home Grand Tour later this month. Sastre finished runner-up at last year's Vuelta, where Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) put in an impressive performance to claim his second title at the event.

The announcement Sastre will ride in the top jersey comes as organisers release a list of teams contesting this year's race and their respective top riders. There's few surprises on the list, with Tour bridesmaid Cadel Evans leading his Silence-Lotto squad, Alejandro Valverde heading up Caisse d'Epargne, Vladimir Efimkin leading AG2R - La Mondiale and Oscar Freire guiding Rabobank.

This year's Vuelta will also pit the new Tour champion against 2007 winner Alberto Contador (Astana). The two Spaniards didn't get to battle one another for this year's French Grand Tour win as Contador's squad wasn't invited to defend his title.

Vuelta a España teams and leaders: Team CSC - Saxo Bank (Carlos Sastre), AG2R - La Mondiale (Vladimir Efimkin), Andalucía - Caja Sur (José Luís Carrasco), Astana (Alberto Contador), Bouygues Telecom (Dimitri Champion), Caisse d´Epargne (Alejandro Valverde), Cofidis, le Credit par telephone (Sylvain Chavanel), Credit Agricole (Eric Berthou), Euskaltel - Euskadi (Igor Anton), Française des Jeux (Sandy Casar), Gerolsteiner (Davide Rebellin), Karpin Galicia (Ezequiel Mosquera), Lampre (Damiano Cunego), Liquigas (Daniele Bennati), Quick Step (Paolo Bettini), Rabobank (Oscar Freire), Silence-Lotto (Cadel Evans), Team Milram (Erik Zabel) and Tinkoff Credit Systems (Mikhail Ignatiev).

CSF Group-Navigare to ride with Zen in '09

Enrico Zen has signed with CSF Group-Navigare for next season, with the youngster hopeful of winning a Grand Tour stage for the Italian squad. The Team Filmop Ramonda Bottoli rider has signed a two-year agreement with the Ireland-registered Professional Continental outfit.

"It is a great, I mean, my first professional deal," Zen said. "Now I have to show my qualities, but firstly I want to thank Rossato and the team for having brought me upon the professional category. Every rider wants to ride with the biggest team, but the CSF Group-Navigare is a group where I can find a familiar environment and some friends as my former teammates. My dream is a stage-win in Giro d'Italia."

Zen has claimed victories at the Giro Valli Aretine-GP Città di Arezzo and Giro delle Pesche Nettarine so far this year. He also finished fourth in Trofeo Banca Popolare di Vicenza.

"Enrico is a climber who improved so much during these four years; he showed some good qualities during the international races, too," said CSF Group-Navigare's Mirko Rossato. "Our team continues the collaboration with the Reverberi family: after Bongiorno, Maximiliano Richeze, Savini, Tomei, Finetto, now it's Zen's turn. I rode with Reverberi and I know that 'my' guys will find the best team for them."

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